Many more Americans now believe sexual harassment at work is a serious problem

With the Harvey Weinstein scandal and others boiling over in recent weeks — combined with the viral #MeToo social media movement following in the scandal’s wake — findings from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll show a significant change in public attitudes about sexual harassment: 64% of Americans now consider sexual harassment of women at work “a serious problem” in the U.S., up from 47% back in 2011.

More Americans say they take sexual harassment at work seriously

For the Washington Post-ABC News poll, 1,260 adults in the U.S. were surveyed. Thirty percent of women said they’ve gotten “unwanted sexual advances from a man” working at the same company, while 23% of women said a man who “had influence over” their job did this to them.

The poll found that 42% of women on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances from a man with the influence over their work situation told someone in a supervisory position there, while 58% did not.

Not always easy to speak up

It’s not always easy to speak up at work once something happens — telling someone about it can pose significant challenges. A 2016 report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, told The Washington Post about why sexual harassment cases aren’t always brought to light.

“There’s a range of reasons why people don’t report. One big one is that retaliation often accompanies harassment. People who come forward risk isolation and shaming, and they risk short or long-term damage to their careers,” Graves told the Post.

That’s how workplace perpetrators slip through the cracks.

These feelings were echoed in the Washington Post-ABC News poll’s findings that 65% of respondents said they believe that a man who sexually harasses a female coworker usually “gets away with it,” versus 29% who said he suffers consequences for it.

Workers look to employers to step in

Workers largely believe that it’s up to employers to step in.

A recent survey of 508 U.S. adults found that 65% of them agreed that sexual harassment at work is “the responsibility of the company to prevent or solve,” while 28% thought this fell on the people involved.

What this means in the context of the #MeToo social media movement

Although women like former Fox News Network host Gretchen Carlson and others have spoken up about unwanted sexual advances at work in the past, the finding that more Americans think sexual harassment of women at work is a “serious problem” than before speaks to the increased volume of people coming forward about this type of behavior in recent weeks.

As the #MeToo movement gained steam on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, many people’s friends and favorite celebrities related that they’ve experiences sexual assault and/or harassment.

Recode reported yesterday that, according to Facebook, “more than 45 percent of people in the U.S. are friends with someone who has posted a ‘Me too’ status.”